Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Can we admire those that we hate?

In every dispute the combatant sides are convinced of the correctness of their position. Whether this be in the area of politics, religion or even social interactions, we take positions that are, by definition, correct and true, for that is the reason we chose them in the first place.

One of the great challenges when entering into debate is to distinguish between the 'issues' and the 'people'.

Unfortunately, this distinction is often blurred, and disputes that should stay impersonal and emotionally neutral, become heated debates where the very character of the parties is questioned and denigrated, rather than just their arguments.

Whereas we seldom question our internal motives for supporting our position, we are convinced of the biased, self-serving and delusional motives of those that sit opposite us. It is extremely difficult to see them as positively motivated individuals who are doing what they believe is best for society, motivated by altruistic notions of Tikkun Olam.

What I would like to suggest is that the Torah's approach to engaging in debate, necessitates that we judge the other party favourably; they are in essence good people who have made bad choices.

They want exactly the same thing as we do, to make the world to be a better place, but we clearly disagree as to how we will achieve that.

In this week's Parsha Moshe's leadership is challenged by a number of aggressive and abusive groups. The story culminates in a dual, where both Moshe and his antagonists offer incense offerings to Hashem. Moshe is triumphant, but his opponents suffer the ultimate fate.
The post script to the story is that the fire pans that belonged to the recalcitrant group are hammered into a covering for the altar.

Why are the possessions of the wicked raised to become part of the Temple ornaments?

The Netziv (1817-1893 Russia) comments that even though the antagonists were wrong, their motives were pure; they sought closeness to Hashem through communal leadership.
The positive intent and motivation of the group is recognised and admired by the Torah, even though the individuals met an untimely demise.

Is it possible to vehemently disagree with someone, even hate their opinion or position, yet to still like, admire and respect them?

If the mob of this week's Parsha can be respected by Hashem, surely we can respect those with whom we disagree...?

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